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Homeless Grandma? There’s A National Senior Housing Crisis

By 2025 the senior citizen population is expected to double in King County. So where are all of those people going to live? Good question. Seniors are already struggling to find housing now. (Photo by CC: dark_ghetto28)

By 2025 the senior citizen population is expected to double in King County. So where are all of those people going to live? Good question. Seniors are already struggling to find housing now.

“I have a stack of apartments. They’re either closed waiting lists or they’re not affordable,” said 75-year-old Colleen Clark.

Colleen has contacted dozens of senior living facilities and they all tell her the same thing: we’re full and the waiting list is full, so try again next year. Colleen lives in a nice apartment in Sammamish, but the only place she can walk to, with her bad foot and ankles, is the strip mall across the street.

“I’m alone and isolated here. There are no activities here. Holidays and weekends, when the office is closed, and evenings, there’s no one here. There are just young, working people here who commute to Microsoft. So I’m just alone and isolated and I just, I can’t do that anymore. I can’t live like this anymore.”

King County calls it the Quiet Crisis. Andrea Yip, with the City of Seattle’s Aging and Disability Services calls it something else.

“It’s what we call the Silver Tsunami. The Age Wave is coming. There’s just not going to be enough housing and, even specifically, affordable housing for older adults. And older adults have special needs. As your body ages you can’t climb all of the stairs and you need what we call Universal Design Principals in housing.”

Tom Trolio works in the same department. He says many seniors are being priced out of the buildings they’ve lived in for decades.

“Some people end up evicted or foreclosed on. It’s really odd to think about your mom, who is 75 or even 80, actually being evicted from an apartment building and having to go to a shelter. And that happens.”

This isn’t just a local problem, it’s a national crisis. Colleen has contacted senior living facilities all over California, with the same results.

She has a Section 8 voucher, so she can only live places that accept low income people. She can’t afford a cushy, private senior living facility.

“It is very expensive and many seniors have lost their pensions or don’t have the funds to be able to live in the Cadillac areas,” Andrea says. “You really have to start saving much earlier because you are living longer. Those places are very nice and if you can live there it’s great because it gives you that socialization, it gives you activities. Many of them convert into assisted living so you can age in place there if you need nursing level care. Unfortunately, not many can afford it.”

Colleen goes online everyday, researching places to live, hoping she can find a place where she can socialize, do activities and get transportation to the places she needs to go.

“I feel trapped. I never experienced this before in my life. I didn’t know it was going to be like that. I always just [chose] where I wanted to go, called, there was a vacancy, I just packed my boxes and went. I’m trapped here. There’s no place to go. There’s no vacancy anywhere.”

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About the Author

Rachel Belle

Rachel Belle is a feature contributor and personality on The Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio (weekdays 3-7pm), and host of the twice-monthly, culinary audio adventure podcast, Your Last Meal.


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